The Ad Contrarian

Today I am doing something I hardly ever do — a guest post. The post was compiled by my good friend, Marcie Judelson (@MarcieJudelson) for her blog Chronic Fatigue. She’s given me permission to here reproduce it. My topic today is something Personally I think very interested in; namely, the egregious overuse of the term “passion”.

I can keep in mind after I was quite fond of “passion”. Once upon a time, “passion” was a term mainly reserved for expressions of love and desire. Such as “10 Ways to Put the Passion Back in Your Marriage,” steamy Harlequin Romance novels, and swarthy Argentine Tango dancers. What’s not to like?

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One could also be passionate about a cause or one’s artwork. We expect artists, dancers, and musicians to be passionate in what they are doing. They operate in the rarefied world of Art, where interest is a prerequisite virtually. I have no problem with that. The problem is that today, everybody is passionate about everything suddenly. Passion used to be an extraordinary commodity.

Its scarcity was part of its allure. But forget about. Now the passion is plentiful. Passion has lost its power. And is becoming another thing: a tepid cliche. I trace the overuse of the P-word back again to the 1980s. Specifically, I blame advertising, and wine advertising in particular. Suddenly, it wasn’t enough to just make wines. Winemakers had to be “passionate” about their “build”.

That’s when interest met its P-word partner: pretension. And it all there went to hell from. Soon, passion crept into food. The more we fetishize food, the more passionate we get. You can no longer simply like dark chocolate, coffee, or Greek yogurt. You have to be passionate about those foodstuffs. Or fashion. Or yoga.

Or your preferred brand of toaster waffles. Being passionate about locks products and sundried tomato vegetables is bad enough. But now, the passion has infiltrated Corporate America. In a nutshell, the P-word has been co-opted by the HR Industry. That is true in tech especially, marketing and other creative sectors. Which is where it gets unpleasant.

Have you perused job listings lately? I’ll take action for you. There’s a lot passion in these postings, I am made by it numb. Passion in the workforce used to mean something fun and exciting — like someone in Accounting were making breakfast for someone in Quality Control. Now it’s just a condition of employment. Sort of like not having a prison record. That is disturbing on many levels.

When you equate “passion” with work, it elevates the work itself (and the business doing the work) to the even of importance and faux altruism that are hardly ever, if ever, deserved. I remember seeing a working job posting for a favorite local video gaming company. It included this gem: “You are passionate about creating games that can transform the world.” So now I guess the geeks writing code for “Grand Theft Auto” will be getting seats on the Security Council.

What’s worse and greater than a little troubling, would be that the new corporate requirement of “passion” just happened to coincide with the Great Recession and record joblessness. At the very same time millions of highly certified, experienced people found themselves unemployed, employers decided to in the ante. It had been longer enough to be skilled no, dedicated, conscientious, and a hard worker.

Now, you had to be “passionate” about doing your Excel spreadsheets or proofreading 6 pt. Why the unexpected lust for “passion?” I’ve two equally cynical ideas. 1: “Passion” is code. It’s Corporate Speak for “must be prepared to work around the clock and enjoy chilly pizza at your work station.” That is why job postings for start-ups require super-charged, prodigious levels of interest. 2: Companies want to display screen out old people and attract low-salaried (or no-salaried) Millennials.